Track and field

Just because the sports car is red doesn’t mean it’s gonna go fast

Just because the sports car is red doesn’t mean it’s gonna go fast

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Along with death and taxes, we experience other certainties.

LIfe also brings us American DQs — and other gruesome weirdnesses — in high-profile relays.

Why this is so remains an enduring mystery. Well, not really. It’s institutional and cultural. But as Sunday night’s close to the fourth edition of the IAAF World Relays proved yet again, it is very much so — so much that after two more DQs and a loss in the men’s 4x1 the happiest person in the U.S. track and field scene, as the jest in the press room went, in a nod to the politics that chronically beset American relays, was assuredly Carl Lewis.

Good news:

It’s May. The world championships aren’t until the fall, in Doha, Qatar, and all of 2019 is but a prelude pointing toward the big show, Tokyo and 2020. t’s eminently possible this can — could, should — get sorted out by this fall and, presumably, by next summer. Ronnie Baker isn’t here. Christian Coleman isn’t here. 

Bad news:

When it comes to the United States in the relays, as literally episode upon episode has made plain, Groundhog Day can happen anytime.

World Relays: at an inflection point

World Relays: at an inflection point

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Journalism is storytelling, and storytelling necessarily involves tension, and from the get-go an irreconcilable tension dictated the way local organizers and track and field’s international governing body approached this fourth edition of the IAAF World Relays.

The Japanese hosts necessarily and understandably viewed these Relays at 72,327-seat International Stadium — site of the 2002 World Cup soccer final that saw Brazil defeat Germany, 2-0 — as a test event for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Tokyo is maybe 35 minutes away. At a Friday news conference, Hiroshi Yokokawa, president of the Japanese track and field federation and member of the IAAF council, said, “The road [on which] we are now standing is heading straight to the Tokyo 2020 Games.” Koji Murofushi, the 2004 Athens hammer throw gold medalist who is the Tokyo 2020 sports director, called the Relays a “milestone for the Tokyo 2020 Games.” Even the athletes understood the direction, Ryota Yamagata, who ran on the Japanese men’s silver-medal 4x100 relay at the 2016 Rio Games, declaring at that same briefing, “We want to have a good start to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and 37[-plus] seconds is a good benchmark.”

Compare to the words of IAAF president Seb Coe.

The Relays, Coe said at that very same news conference, make for a “suffusion of fun and innovation.”

In the matter of '46 XY DSD' cases: the IAAF is right

In the matter of '46 XY DSD' cases: the IAAF is right

In the complex, emotionally charged matter of 46 XY DSD cases: the IAAF is right.

There. I said it.

If you already feel like sending hate mail, roger. But, and for emphasis: the IAAF is right.

Let’s be straight-up: Caster Semenya’s many vocal supporters have sought to focus the story on Semenya alone. That’s not right or fair. There are others similarly situated, including for instance — as was recently acknowledged — the Rio 2016 800-meter runner-up Francine Niyonsaba. So the IAAF is hardly targeting Caster Semenya. 

What seeking to make this matter all about Caster Semenya does, however, is what a great deal if not almost all of the reportage about this matter has done: cast Semenya as the sympathetic if not profoundly empathetic protagonist in a classic narrative thread, the individual against the institution. 

What’s often missing completely from that storytelling — or buried way, way down at the bottom, because in today’s overheated social media-driven cauldron of outrage, very few want to speak up — are other voices, those who have their own dreams, too, literally millions of girls and women around the world, and here is where the IAAF is 100 percent dead-on right to go to court to ask, what about them?

Shocking (not): back to Eugene for the 2020 track Trials

Shocking (not): back to Eugene for the 2020 track Trials

The new Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, is a track and field-specific venue. 

Without the U.S. Olympic track and field Trials in 2020, and then the world track and field championships in 2021, what would you would have in the new Hayward?

A complete albatross.

So — lack of surprise — USA Track & FIeld on Thursday announced the Trials are heading back to Eugene in 2020.

Track and field World Cup: 'fixture' or one-off?

Track and field World Cup: 'fixture' or one-off?

LONDON — Keep it simple, stupid, Bill Clinton would have advised, and here is the problem with track and field, exemplified with this weekend’s first Athletics World Cup back at Olympic Stadium

This meet sought so desperately to be so many things — too many things — to so many people on so many levels. 

Organizers tried to put together a world-class meet in about six months though the schedule of world sport is already jammed to the max, the calendar of track and field is itself a mess and, maybe, most of all, it’s unclear how a meet like this can draw the world’s best runners, jumpers and throwers in a way that everyone — and in particular, a wide range of athletes — can make money. Real money.

That last bit requires a further set of questions, all fundamental. Track and field is a professional sport. What is a reasonable payday? For a star? For someone who is in his or her first pro meet? For someone who, say, runs the open 400 meters as opposed to someone who runs but a leg in a relay? For someone who pulls double duty? Should the pay standards be different for track athletes and those in the field events? 

Switching gears: who thought a trophy should cost $400,000, and why?

So many threads. Pull, and it’s clear why the tapestry of track and field is at once so beautiful and so frayed.

The track and field calendar is a shambles, ugh

The track and field calendar is a shambles, ugh

Mike Rodgers ran the 100 meters in 9.89 seconds in the preliminary rounds of the U.S. track and field national championships Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

It was the fastest 100 meters, anywhere in the world, so far in 2018.

This raises several questions.

Why is Rodgers running that fast in — the prelims? 

Why, moreover, is a 33-year-old Mike Rodgers running in the 9.8s again after a 2017 that saw him run a best 10-flat and a 9.97 in 2016?

Rodgers ran 9.92 in Prague on June 4. And — here is the inexplicable thing about professional track and field — it has to be asked: why he is running that fast in 2018? For what reason?

Pride gets no one paid. Respect is awesome, and 9.89 is respectfully quick. But, again, track is a professional sport. 

And this is what in track circles is called an “off-year.” There’s no Olympics, no world championships. 

A Duke tennis player's case and fairness for Justin Gatlin

A Duke tennis player's case and fairness for Justin Gatlin

A few days ago, the International Tennis Federation announced that Spencer Furman, a top player at Duke, had been cleared in a doping case leveled after he tested positive last September 9 in the qualifying draw of the Atlantic Tire Championships, an ATP challenger, in Cary, N.C.

Long story short: Furman was using a prescribed ADHD medicine “to help him concentrate while studying at university,” according to the ITF release. This medicine, Vyvanse, contained a stimulant, D-amphetamine, on the banned list. Oops. He applied for a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption. 

When agreed by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the anti-doping agency at issue, a retroactive TUE may be granted “on the grounds of fairness.” WADA so agreed. The charge was dropped.

So?

So what?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly — exactly — the fact pattern that got the sprinter Justin Gatlin a one-year suspension when he was a college kid at Tennessee in 2001. 

A wave of DQs: why does track and field insist on such self-inflicted buzzkill?

A wave of DQs: why does track and field insist on such self-inflicted buzzkill?

BIRMINGHAM, England — The men’s 400 meters here Saturday night at the 2018 world indoor track and field championships was awesome. Until, suddenly, it was not.

Spain’s Oscar Husillos crossed the line in a championship-record 44.92, followed by Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, the London 2012 400 silver medalist. Husillos was instantly met with precisely the sort of joyous theater that track and field needs: a rooting section made up of dudes in costumes, a banana, a cow and (Batman sidekick) Robin, who dashed to the grandstand railing and threw him a Spanish flag.

Great stuff.

And then it was announced that both Husillos and Luguelin had been disqualified for lane violations — the latest victims in a tsunami of ticky-tack DQs that have swept over these championships. 

Why does track and field insist on such buzzkill? 

Track and field already has great stories. It doesn't need a savior

Track and field already has great stories. It doesn't need a savior

BIRMINGHAM, England — Predictably, the American sprinter Christian Coleman is already being hailed as the next this, the next that, already being asked if he can run 100 meters faster than 9.58 seconds.

What is it about track and field, this almost-desperate need -- in some if not many quarters -- to anoint someone as savior?

No one is savior. No one needs to be the almighty. It’s an unfair ask. Who, alone, carries a sport in baseball, basketball, football, hockey or soccer? Why, then, track and field?

Coleman, just 21, is an outrageous talent. A few weeks ago, at the U.S. nationals, at altitude in Albuquerque, he broke the world indoor record for 60 meters, running 6.34 seconds. On Saturday night, here at the 2018 world indoor championships, he went a championship-record 6.37, five ticks faster than Mo Greene's 6.42 from 1999.

Leadership in action -- and a call to action, too

Leadership in action -- and a call to action, too

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — In September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through the Caribbean. Only one word describes the two storms: catastrophic.

There is the financial toll. In Puerto Rico, estimates are it may cost as much as $95 billion to recover. That’s billion with a b. 

The structural. It’s already three months-plus since September. Yet basics such as electricity and internet service, for instance, are hardly a given in many of the string of islands in the Atlantic Ocean lashed by the storms. The first time Steve Augustine, president of the British Virgin Islands track and field federation, had seen a working television since September was Sunday night here in San Juan, when he arrived for a Monday meeting.

The emotional. Godwin Dorsette, from Dominica, broke down in tears at that very meeting. “I’m a brave man. I’m a very strong person,” he said. “But I was afraid.”

Across the Caribbean, track and field is unquestionably a — if not the — leading sport. With that in mind, the sport’s global governing body, the International Associaton of Athletics Federations, on Tuesday announced a $500,000 “solidarity fund” aimed at helping those member federations that were pounded by Irma and Maria and, as well, by Hurricanes Harvey and Jose.